31 Dec Resolutions, #Nerdlutions and Grit
New Year’s is approaching and many of us are thinking of making resolutions. This time of year inspires the will to create new habits and set goals. #Nerdlution gave many of us a headstart on our resolutions this year. It is incredible to me how many people joined in and the dialogue and creativity that are inspired by it. We are now 30 days in. Now is the time when the going gets rough. There have been more tweets about failing and not meeting goals. There have been fewer tweets in general over the holidays. It is so easy to set goals, but seeing a goal through to the end is really tough. The word grit keeps coming to mind. I am hearing and reading about grit everywhere. It is hard to define. It is almost intangible, unless you have experienced it.
I train for marathons. I say train because I have trained for more marathons than I have actually ran. Injury often gets in my way about two weeks before the race. I had done all the long runs, persevered through the grueling training schedule, and then had to say goodbye to the achievement. This happened to me six times. I have trained for eight marathons and only ran two of the races — well, technically only one. Two years ago, I was recovering from a hip injury that prevented me from running the New York Marathon. This particular marathon was a dream for me. I set my eyes on making my comeback to running with New York the next fall. I had my number and set my goal. My body stayed healthy and I was good to go –until Hurricane Sandy hit. There would be no New York Marathon.
This was the race that truly taught me about grit. In that moment, the moment when I heard the news I had so many feelings. I felt relieved because I truly believed it was the right decision for the people of the city of New York. I felt angry that once again I would not meet my goal. I felt sad and allowed myself to cry for the loss of achievement. But then I felt determination. Something inside me said …not yet.
I decided I would run a marathon that weekend – my marathon. I quietly shared my plan with family and friends. I mapped out a 26.2-mile route and dropped off fuel in hidden locations along the way. I set out to run my marathon, by myself and for myself.
I ran my best time ever to a playlist created by my family to keep me company along the way. Instead of crowds cheering me on, I awaited the surprise of the next song on the list and spent time thinking about the meaning of each chosen song. Instead of being among thousands of runners, I was completely alone. Instead of a grand finish line, I had my family waiting for me with a finish line they created. I made my final turn and saw them… but they were facing the wrong way. There were signs, flowers, and music. They were there, waiting for me with pride and love, but they were looking the in the wrong direction. I knew I should turn around and enter the park from the other side so that their finish line would work as they planned, but all I could do was laugh. I broke down laughing and could barely run. It was the perfect imperfect ending to an imperfect achievement of a goal.
Grit was truly a mindset for me in the Clarathon (as named by my family). It was not about having the physical or mental stamina I needed to meet my goal. It was about having a mindset to define success or achievement flexibly. I had to search within myself to truly understand my goal. Was it New York or was it a marathon? Was it running the marathon or pushing myself to do something that was for me and only me? I came to the realization that I could meet my goal and not run New York. I understood that sometimes the goals we originally set are merely an entry point to a bigger goal in our lives. We need to allow ourselves to discover ourselves – the good, the bad and the ugly – through the process of working towards a goal. That journey gives us insights into our strengths and weaknesses, our schedules, our distractions and our joys. It helps us understand what we truly need and how to set up a life that helps us meet our needs and our goals. It is not about the goal itself, it is about what we learn through the process of working towards the goal.
In that moment, I did not turn around to make a perfect ending. I learned through the process that meeting a goal is not about being perfect it is about making revisions and redefining success. I can’t help but think about the possible connections we all will have with our students if we use our resolution or our #nerdlution experiences to share with them what we have learned through the process of setting goals, failing, revising, making new rules, becoming distracted, refocusing and finding that inner strength – that grit – to make it to the finish line with a better understanding of who we are and what we need to be successful. In my family, when the going gets rough, one of us almost always references the Clarathon and we try to remember that the best finishes often are the ones we could have never planned for.
So… 2014 is approaching and there are 20 days left in #nerdultion … Will you be making new resolutions? What revisions are you making to the goals you have already set? What have you learned about yourself in the process of working towards a goal? How do you define grit? Do you believe in redefining success? How will you use what you have learned through this process to rethink goal setting in your classroom?